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Mental Health Youth Homeless NYC

How Homeless Youth statistics affect mental health in New York


All That Glitters Ain't Gold

For a city that receives numerous positive accolades from the outside world, the number of homeless people in New York City is almost shocking. It is indeed true that not everything that glitters about the empire state is gold. The percentage of homeless people in recent years is second to only one other period- the era of the great depression in the 1930s. Statistics from the Coalition for the Homeless records that there are about 63,495 ‘sheltered’ homeless people in the city as at December 2017. This stat covers everyone that sleeps in the New York Municipal shelter system. Youth and Children are the most affected age groups with. Over 40000 homeless children were reported to have slept in the New York City Municipal shelter system in the year 2017.


The pitiable situation has a great negative impact on the mental health of youths. Being homeless is regarded a major risk factor for poor mental health. A study showed that about 35% of the homeless suffer from serious mental illnesses. A further 20% of this population are youths and children. Invariably, a city with the number of homeless youths as high as New York's would definitely have youths suffering from mental illnesses.

It is particularly difficult for youths to cope healthily with mental health disorders because they are at the growing and developing stage. Disorders such as depression or anxiety could greatly affect the developmental process. The problem is heightened by the stigma from their peers at school who have a home. Combining this stigma with the already present emotional problem associated with homelessness could further compromise their mental health.

Furthermore, substance abuse and mental problems go hand in hand. Youths are the age group that is most affected by substance abuse and the problem is even more peculiar among homeless youths. The majority of youths still feel taking alcohol and doing drugs is the escape route from their problems. Since homelessness is one problem that doesn’t go away readily, many homeless youths tend to give in to the temporary pleasures of drugs. The peer influence also compounds the problem of homelessness and drug abuse. Many homeless are into it already and the street is where drugs are being sold. Living on the streets and doing drugs is much easier than living on the streets and staying out of drugs. The drugs and alcohol often precipitate or worsen the already present mental illness in homeless youths. In New York, substance abuse is a top contributor to cases of premature death among youths.


The economic impacts of homelessness worsen the outlook on the mental health of homeless youths. Remember they are only homeless in the first place due to the harsh economic conditions. Successfully treating mental illnesses often requires long-term medications and consultations with various specialists. These homeless youths hardly have a comprehensive health insurance plan and can hardly afford these treatments themselves. The prognosis of the mental health further goes from bad to very bleak.

The only way out of the rising homelessness and mental health concerns for New York youths is to address the problem from the root causes. Lack of affordable housing, overcrowding, unemployment and poor housing conditions have been identified as the major causes of homelessness. The government and other stakeholders should endeavor work towards solving these if they are to untangle the web of problems linking youth homelessness and mental health in New York.


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